Another setback for savers

Tim Bennett rounds up the week’s personal finance news, including government help for homebuyers, higher premiums for women drivers and the British obsession with rising house prices.

The government is determined to help borrowers, no matter what the cost to savers. Under the latest £80bn Funding for Lending Scheme lauched in August, banks can apply to the Bank of England for cheap funds, which they are then supposed to use to create more competitive loans for borrowers. However, it looks as though most banks are simply taking advantage of their increased access to cheap cash by cutting the rates they offer to savers, says The Daily Telegraph's Emma Wall.

As notes, the average interest rate on a one or two-year fixed-rate savings account has dropped by around 8% in the past two months (to 2.57% and 3.01% respectively). Meanwhile, as Michael Saunders, an economist at Citigroup, notes, there's been little obvious progress in "improving the growth or price of credit to households and businesses". Our advice to beleaguered savers? Keep shopping around for the best rates and watch out for when bonus' savings offers expire.

"Britain's women are in for a shock," says Patrick Collinson in The Guardian. From 21 December a European Union ruling bans insurers from offering different premiums based on gender.

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The result is likely to be rising premiums for women. The average rise in an annual motor premium could be £300, with a rise of as much as £2,000 for younger age groups, according to Women aged 40 or under are at particular risk of paying around 25% more, reckons the Association of British Insurers, as firms bring premiums up to the level of their riskier male counterparts.

What can you do to cut your costs? Shopping around with a variety of comparison websites and putting in a few calls to insurers usually pays off withcar insurance, but younger drivers in particular could look into "pay as you drive" telematics insurance a system that uses an onboard computer to capture data about your driving habits, which is used to set your premium (you can read more about this in the cover story: Profit from the new age of the car). For more on how to get this insurance, visit

Nationwide Building Society has stopped offering interest-only mortgages to new customers. Our advice to anyone looking for an interest-only mortgage just now is simple: don't. Most lenders have slashed availability already, and many are trying to push existing interest-only borrowers onto repayment mortgages. If you already have an interest-only mortgage, you should ensure you have some sort of plan in place to repay the original capital when your term ends.

The great British public remains as over-optimistic on property prices as ever. Two-thirds of British homeowners expect prices to rise over the next six months, says the Zoopla Housing Market Sentiment Survey. However, property analysts at Hometrack predict "slow downward pressure" after their National Housing Survey reported a 0.1% fall in September.

Tim graduated with a history degree from Cambridge University in 1989 and, after a year of travelling, joined the financial services firm Ernst and Young in 1990, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1994.

He then moved into financial markets training, designing and running a variety of courses at graduate level and beyond for a range of organisations including the Securities and Investment Institute and UBS. He joined MoneyWeek in 2007.